x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Emiratis strive to thrive as conditions provide rosy picture

A survey by Abu Dhabi Gallup Center provides insight into the lives of Emiratis and their GCC neighbours.

ABU DHABI // Emiratis are "thriving" more than other Gulf citizens and those of other wealthy nations, the survey shows.

Those polled rated their present circumstances and expectations for the future from nought to 10, with 10 being the best. Those who gave present circumstances a seven or higher and future perceptions at least an eight were classified as "thriving".

That included 63 per cent of Emiratis, compared with a median of 43 per cent in other high-income nations polled separately by Gallup. The UAE figure compares with 56 per cent in Qatar, 44 per cent in Kuwait, 43 per cent in Saudi Arabia and 27 per cent in Bahrain.

The positive outlook of Emiratis was most strongly linked, as it was elsewhere, with comfortable incomes. But unlike citizens of other countries in the region it was most closely linked with faith and learning, rather than work opportunities.

Fifty per cent of Emiratis said they lived comfortably on their income, compared with 30 per cent in other high-income countries, 51 per cent in Qatar, 47 per cent in Saudi Arabia, 29 per cent in Kuwait and 19 per cent in Bahrain.

The top predictors of thriving in Gulf countries were income, the view that working hard brings rewards and the belief that entrepreneurs can find qualified employees.

In the UAE, the top predictors were income, faith and having "learned something interesting".

"Views about job creation, hard work or the job climate are … top predictors in all countries except the UAE," the report said.

Dalia Mogahed, the director of the Abu Dhabi Gallup Center, explained: "This result does not mean that these factors are not important in the UAE, only that other factors matter more."

Gulf nationals' sense of well-being diminished less with age than in other high-income nations: 52 per cent of those aged 15 to 29 were classified as thriving; as were 43 per cent of those aged 30 to 44; and 45 per cent of those aged 45 and older.

For those age brackets in other high-income countries, an average of 58, 43 and 34 per cent were considered to be thriving.

Having large thriving populations was "an important measure" because it correlated with the stability of a country, said Ms Mogahed.

The figures reflected the success of government policies, said Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak, the minister of higher education and scientific research, in his remarks at the unveiling of the report.

"We in the UAE are proud because the UAE in this report has done well across the spectrum," Sheikh Nahyan said. "This report emphasises clearly that the GCC nationals are satisfied with their lifestyles."

Higher levels of education were linked to thriving in the UAE and the Gulf: 53 per cent of Emirati men with primary school education were classified as thriving, compared with 73 per cent of those with university degrees.

And 63 per cent of women with primary school education were thriving, compared with 70 per cent of those with university degrees.

That trend was not surprising as the generations polled were the first to enjoy higher education broadly, said Abaas Chaudhry, a project manager at the Tabah Foundation, an Abu Dhabi think tank.

"Previously, education was a privilege and now it's common," Mr Chaudhry said.

Faith was rated a central part of daily life, particularly among older Emiratis. Among those aged between 15 and 29, 56 per cent said they "strongly agreed" faith was involved in every aspect of their life, compared with 65 per cent of those between 30 and 44, and 76 per cent among those 45 or older.

It was important to ensure that such high interest in religion was harnessed positively, especially among young people, Dr Hamdan al Mazrouei, the chairman of the General Authority for Islamic Affairs and Endowments, said in a panel discussion on the survey.

"This age group perhaps might be exploited by those who misunderstand their religion," Dr al Mazrouei said.

In the Emirates, he noted, Friday sermons were prepared by a group of approved scholars. "Wherever you go in the UAE, you will listen to a moderate religious cleric."

Read the Progress and Tradition in the GCC States report here

chuang@thenational.ae